Pedro Zamora’s life was ripe for the TV movie treatment: He immigrated from Cuba as a boy, but was separated from his older siblings who stayed behind. His mom died of cancer. He was a gay Latino boy coming of age in the late ’80s and early ’90s in Miami. And when he was diagnosed with AIDS at age 17, he rose to national prominence as an outspoken AIDS activist. But it wasn’t until he snagged a spot on the third season of MTV’s The Real World (remember when that was relevant?) that he became an indelible pop-culture icon.
And that’s also what makes the network’s decision to honor him with a biopic so strange: Um, didn’t they document his life once…on their own groundbreaking reality show? They had the key footage of the actual Pedro’s life — big, important moments like his wedding to (also HIV-positive) boyfriend Sean Sasser. As my colleague Kerrie Mitchell wisely asked: Why not just release that season — by far the show’s pinnacle — on DVD instead? Or, I would add, why not even repackage Pedro footage into its own tribute, perhaps with fresh interviews from cast mates and some unaired extra scenes?
That said, I found this mashup of standard TV movie and meta reenactment of The Real World‘s third season to be oddly mesmerizing, namely because of the latter. This could be the first of many future biopics that include incidents that happened on camera once before (anyone from Lauren Conrad to Donald Trump to Elisabeth Hasselbeck is fair game). Depicting such requires at least a little subtle commentary on the genre itself; and MTV, as usual, proudly owns the fakeness of its reality, with housemates reshooting missed dialogue, stopping what they’re doing so cameramen can reload, and admonishing Pedro to quit preaching his HIV gospel when they weren’t rolling. Can’t wait to see what we learn when the inevitable Heidi: The Price of the American Dream hits the air in 2035.
What did you think, PopWatchers? Did Pedro live up to Zamora’s legacy? Would you have preferred a more real Real World treatment of his life? What did you think of the movie’s depiction of reality TV?